Dirt Rich

24: Restoring Oak Savanna

February 17, 2021

Tyler and Stephen pick up their conversation on oak savanna from our last episode: How do we restore oak savanna? What does it take? Where have we been and what’s been missed in prior restoration attempts?

According to Stephen, “restoration is restoring the processes that maintain the desirable vegetation.” He dives into a variety of techniques used to do so including spraying, mowing, burning, baling, and grazing. Knowing what to take and what to leave is key in changing the trajectory of an ecosystem.

Stephen and Tyler also get into a popular question: do we really need fire? What is necessary to maintain the savanna once you have it where you want it? To parse out an answer to that question, Stephen walks us through historical and ecological perspectives. Considering the relationship between burning and grazing, the pair land on grazing as a primary tool and burning as a secondary tool to maintain savanna grassland; grazing reduces the necessity of burning.

The opportunity of farming and restoring oak savanna simultaneously is exciting, and Stephen looks forward to the growing cooperation between farmers and conservationists to build understanding and successful restoration work. He imagines the potential that could stem from bringing grazers back into the picture on more of the landscape, even in urban areas: a stronger local food economy, more meaningful jobs. The possibilities just might be as diverse as the ecosystem itself.


SFA’s Silvopasture & Agroforestry webpage: https://www.sfa-mn.org/silvopasture-agroforestry/

Silvopasture Learning Network: https://silvopasture.umn.edu/home


The name we were struggling to remember towards the end of the episode was Tom Barthel of Snake River Farm. Check out his work in Sherburne county with bison and other grazers here.


Stephen Thomforde, Stantec, Senior Ecologist

Tyler Carlson, SFA, Silvopasture & Agroforestry Project Lead

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

This episode is supported and funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). It is part of the “Oak Savanna Restoration through Silvopasture Project” in cooperation with University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension, Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) at the University of Minnesota, and Great River Greening.

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